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Assembly Democrats Introduce Bill to Prohibit Book Banning in Public and School Libraries

Libraries that do not comply could lose State aid

(TRENTON) – National Library Week is a time to highlight the indispensable role of libraries in communities across the country and New Jersey Assemblymembers are committed to ensuring everyone has access to the books they want to read. Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly and Assemblywomen Verlina Reynolds-Jackson and Shanique Speight recently introduced Bill A4120 to prohibit the banning of books or other resources in public and schools libraries throughout the state.

“Acknowledging the detrimental impact book banning and censorship can cause, this legislation aims to protect New Jerseyans’ rights to access significant reading materials,” said Assemblyman Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Across the nation, there have been over a thousand attempts to ban books. Conversely, this proposed legislation emphasizes the importance of literature and education, and establishes that by banning books, you’re banning people’s access to information and ideas.”

Data released by the American Library Association indicated that there were 4,240 unique book titles targeted for censorship in 2023, with the number of titles targeted for censorship at public libraries increasing by 92%. School libraries also saw an uptick, with an 11% rise of titles challenged compared to the previous year. The books in question often represented the voices of LGBTQIA+ individuals as well as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).

The bill would require governing bodies of public libraries and boards of education for school districts to adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights or a policy prohibiting the practice of banning or restricting access to a book or resource because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval. The legislation also authorizes the withholding of State aid for noncompliance.

“Books have always been a way for people to expand their knowledge, to connect with cultures and to learn from history or to escape to a fantasy world,” said Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “This bill will ensure that every resident of New Jersey has access to valuable literature that can open them up to explore new ideas and perspectives.”

“This bill reaffirms our belief that everyone should have access to books and resources they need regardless of personal beliefs,” said Assemblywoman Speight (D-Essex). “Book banning undermines the right to free speech and sends the message that diverse voices, especially those of marginalized groups, don’t have a place in our communities.”